Increasing consumer demand for organic products has created a need for certified organic research sites. Our objective is to discuss the lessons learned from evaluating alternate cropping systems to establish a certified site in western Iowa. Oat (Avena sativa L.), 'Kelson' snail medic [Medicago scutelata (L.) Mill.] or 'Polygraze' burr medic (Medicago polymorpha L.), triticale (XTriticosecale spp.), sweet corn (Zea mays L.), soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.], rye (Secale cereale L.), and alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) or red clover (Trifolium pretense L.) were evaluated in five crop sequences as transition strategies for converting no-till corn and soybean land for certified organic production. Five models for managing organic research sites were developed and are discussed to help researchers and producers become aware of the different roles, goals, and management challenges faced when developing a certified organic research site. A "shared management model" (Type 3) best described our project involving a transitioning grower and researchers. Maintaining annual profit throughout the transition period was our most important factor, so potential returns to land, labor, and management were calculated to compare the various transition strategies. Only two of the cropping systems incurred a positive return to management. They used either a high-value crop such as sweet corn (provided it was marketable) or low-cost crops (i.e., oat and alfalfa). We conclude that learning from our experiences will enable others to develop certified organic research sites and become involved with on-farm research studies with much less stress than that encountered by our farmer cooperator, technical staff, land owner, and research team.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Agronomy and Crop Science